by Jarrod Day
I was totally blown away recently after receiving an email in that I was asked to join a group of manly men to overlook, test and unveil a new range of boats. Excited at joining the group of boating enthusiasts, dealers, editors and magazine writers from around the country we had all but one question when at the airport, where are we going? Secret emails followed by code and the asking of us to destroy each email kept the excitement brewing until the day.
There is no doubt that the Robalo 180 is an impressive machine.
No one knew where we were going, not even the air hostess which was a worrying thought but considering we were on a special mission for Chaparral called 'Secret men’s business 2' I was excited. Following that and keeping with the code, there is really not much more I can say except the boats, well I can talk about those all day.
Having stepped off the plane in the middle of a grassy field, a mini bus parked just a hundred or so meters away was our ticket to the boat ramp.
A short drive and there awaiting by the floating pontoon in the heart of Port Albert, Victoria was this small, neat little package just waiting to be driven.
I had never heard of Robalo, let alone Chaparral prior to this event but was ever so keen to turn the key and really put the R180 to the test. Without hesitation, I was first aboard and took off down the channel.
Sharp turns were no match for the Robalo.
The R180 has to be driven to be believed. For an 18 footer (5.49 m), this boat feels solid underfoot as soon as your feet hit the deck. From an angler’s point of view, this boat is the perfect centre console for those looking to cover all bases of fishing. Drawing just 11 inches and with the ability to fit an electric motor to the bow, this boat as the versatility for an angler to flick a suspending hard body into a snag for bream or take it out into the bay in search of a snapper in saying that, if you have the ability to hit the offshore waters, then there is really nothing this boat cant handle. With so much to offer, Robalo have also taken into consideration the entire family and added in plenty of creature comforts at a very competitive price.
The Robalo 180's Deep V kept water spray outside the boat rather then in.
From the bow, I was quite impressed simply because the anchor well was very easy to access. Robalo have conveniently built a sturdy bow rail from half way down the gunwale to ensure persons are safe while walking to the bow. In rough weather, anchoring in small vessels can be difficult but with a full bow rail, anchoring is safe and easy.
The front hatch was quite hidden away like most of the storage compartments in the entire Robalo range. A small but effective clip neatly tucked under the seat cushions allows access to the 96.5L fish box/cooler that drains overboard. In addition to this area, there are two stainless drink holders moulded into the hull.
The anchor well can handle a great deal of rope and chain.
Plenty of storage under the casting deck.
If you were to remove the cushions, there is enough room for two anglers to cast side by side and if your anything like me and require a little more height to get an accurate cast, one angler can quite comfortably stand on the forepeak. While the rail will be around knee height, it is quite stable and safe at this level.
Working back towards the stern, if you immediately turned around you’re faced with a very comfortable seat which is attached to the front of the console. A clip on the side enables the seat to be opened providing access into the console itself. Here, you have access to plenty of storage but also the added benefit of a porta potti for those in need. Also inside the compartment there is more than enough sitting room with grab rail inside the door and clothes/lifejacket rack overhead.
One very comfortable seat with a little suprise behind it.
Inside the console there is plenty of room for storage and a porta potti.
One of the first things I commented on was the thickness of the aluminum T-Topper. Never have I personally seen such a sturdy t-topper which explains the quality of work gone into such a boat. The design of the T-Topper was perfect in every way providing plenty of grab rails to hold onto although I would like to have seen some sort of fishing rod holder arrangement attached to the sides of the console. Still, the rocket launcher did have four rod holders, which for most anglers is quite substantial.
The canvas top was more than enough to keep the sun and rain off an angler and the windscreen provided enough of a wind break to escape the chill in the air. If you were planning on fishing into the winter months, you might want to have a set of clears fitted to further prevent the cold and rain from entering the helm area.
The T-Topper was vert sturdy and solid with plenty of grab rails.
The console itself has enough room to flush mount 12' electronics unit and with the steering wheel positioned just below this, the viewing screen isn’t affected. Better yet, upon the dash a further unit can be mounted should there be the need. Further room on the dash is accounted for the Garmin Guages and two conveniently situated switch panels. At the top of the console a compass is center mounted with two small storage areas to either side that are rubber matted and self-draining for mobile phones, wallet or car key storage.
Heaps of dash space to add more electronics if you see fit.
For those wanting a little comfort when driving, the well designed seat also acts as a leaning post, it is very comfortable and sturdy built. There is adequate walking room right around it and while driving the boat there is plenty of room to stand or sit without the feeling of being enclosed. There's a footrest at the bottom of the post, but a nice addition would be a small recessed footrest in the console considering there is adequate room when looking inside the console.
The seat itself is positioned quite high enabling adequate storage underneath for an ice box but you may like to secure it in with a jockey strap just so it didn’t slide when under power.
I was very impressed with the width of the gunwales and should you need to stand upon them, there is enough room for even the largest feet. Stability wasn’t a problem; rather the boat didn’t budge with my weight. Put two anglers on one side and you may notice a slight tipping but nothing to get you off balance. Standing inside the boat you can immediately notice the high freeboard. In fact, the Robalo 180 has one of the highest freeboards in the industry.
One either side of the gunwales are two stainless steel rod holders with rubber inserts ideal for trolling measures. If you are heading out bait fishing, a 3-way rod holder set can easily slip into these although I would suggest fitting it out with a full set of snapper racks.
Inside the gunwales on either side is two specifically designed rod lockers. Rods can be placed in tip first followed by the butt section which holds them tight so they don’t knock around. I did find this a little tight especially for rods in a 7ft length but providing your patient and careful, they do fit snug.
The stern is quite compact, access to the batteries and oil container is done via the rear seats which lift off and the backrest can be pushed down on either side to form a rear non-skid casting deck. While the test model was retro fitted with a bait board, this is an extra. Underneath the bait board is a 15-gallon (56.78 L) live bait tank but I did find it a little tight to access with the ski tow frame overhead. Should this be removed, access would be far easier.
The Robalo 180 was fitted with a Honda 135 which in my mind was a great match up with the Robalo 180’s hull weight of 1179kg’s. Having played around in calm waters at first, the power was more than substantial when it came to getting on the plane, mind you; there were only two of us in the boat at the time. After heading offshore through a small bar, we encountered a slight rough water patch with around ½ to 1 meter waves. While the boat loved every bit of it, the power from the 135 pushed through without a hiccup. While you’d expect some slapping on the hull when the boat lands, the weight of the Robalo 180 just sucked it up and landed like you would expect jumping into a lounge suite full of cushions. No sharp banging as you’d expect, the landing was extremely comfortable. What was also remarkable was there was no spray as you’d expect with a center console. Of course should you have the wind blowing to either side their might be a slight spray come over the side but on this day not even a drop hit the windscreen. The deep V hull’s design ensured that the water spray was kept outside rather than inside the vessel.
Further more, motoring through the waves, the odd occasion that we had to get out of the trough and onto the back of the next wave the boat worked well and pushed on. Occasionally the boat was a little sluggish initially but this may be rectified by simply changing the prop pitch or considering the 180 is rated to a 150HP, this maybe an option if it fits your budget.
While I didn’t get the boat up to top speed, I did however reach 5000 RPM which punched out 34MPH burning just 38.98lts and mind you the boat wasn’t trimmed at all during this time.
Sharp turns were no match for the Honda and while I was expecting the weight of the boat to really sink in on the turn, the 135 gave off a slight prop ventilation, before picking us up out of the hole and pushing us back onto the plane in just a few seconds. While driving like this isn’t a standard affair, regular turns were far more responsive keeping the speed continuous.
There is no doubt that Robalo have created the perfect 18 footer for the entire family. Whether you’re out for a little bit of fun with the kids or heading out for a serious fishing session, the Robalo 180 can deal with it all. I was very impressed with what this package had to offer and with a few superficial modifications from an angler’s point of view; this boat’s versatility will suit a large array of anglers.
Bridge Clearance: 1.93m
Fuel Capacity: 189Ltr
Max HP: 150hp
Dry Weight w/engines: 1179kg
Max persons: 8
• Aluminum Framed Acrylic Windshield With SS Grab Rail
• Entry into Console from Forward Side
• Fiberglass Console Door - Hinged
• Forward Console Seat & Bolster
• Hydraulic Steering - Baystar
• Lighted High Speed Compass
• Rubber Floor Mat
• Stainless Steel Drink Holders (2)
• Stainless Steel Grab Rails
• Storage on Top of the Console with Drains
• Vertical Rod Storage for 6 Rods
• Yamaha Digital Gauges
• Aft Jump Seats with Folding Backrests & Custom SS Hardware (Converts to Casting Platform)
• Brushed Anodized Leaning Post with Backrest with 72 Quart Cooler Underneath
• Cockpit Courtesy Lights, Blue LED
• Cockpit Side Coaming Bolsters
• Diamond Lustre Non-Skid Surfaces
• Floatation Foam - Upright & Level
• High Speed Pick up for Livewell Pump
• Horizontal Tubed Rod Storage (4)
• Insulated Storage Compartment in Bow With Overboard Drain
• Livewell in Aft Cockpit - 15 gallons
• Molded Gunnel Inserts
• Premium Expanded & Stain Resistant Cockpit Upholstery Vinyl
• Rod Holders Mounted in the Gunnel Inserts (4)
• Self Bailing Cockpit with Drains
• Stainless Steel Cockpit Grab Rails
• Stainless Steel Drink Holders (4)
• Stainless Steel Steering Wheel
• Transom Storage to Access Rigging Compartment
• 10 Year Limited Hull Warranty
• Anchor Rope & Chain Locker on Bow
• Heavy Duty Rubrail with SS Insert
• Hydro Lift™ Multi Angle Hull Design
• Poured Composite Transom Coring
• Stainless Steel Bow & Stern Eyes
• Stainless Steel Four-Bolt Cleats, Through Bolted with Backing Plates
• Three Blade Aluminium Prop
• Three-Step Telescoping Boarding Ladder with Handle Concealed under a Fibreglass Hatch
• Thru Hull Fittings
• Welded 316 Stainless Steel Bow Grab Rails
• 15' Tires & Rims
• Aluminium Trailer with Brakes
• Folding Tongue Jack
• LED Lights - Submersible
• Single Axle
• Swing-Away Tongue
• Bay Star Tilt Hydrolic Steering (115hp only)
• Performance Package includes: Yamaha Command Link Gauges
• Porta Pottie
• Sea Star Tilt Hydraulic Steering (150hp and up)
• Sound System – FM Radio with USB/MP3 (2 Speakers)
• Toe Kick Tub
• Two-Tone Gel-Coat on Console
• Aluminium T-Top with Canvas
• Bimini Top and Boot
• Bow Cushions
• Console Cover Covers footrest, dash, windscreen, and seating areas of the console.
• Leaning Post Cover
• Powder Coating for T-Top
• Power Coating for Leaning Post
• Raw Water Wash down W/ Hose Connection
• Colour Match Gelcoat (One Print)(Deep Water Black, Deep Water Blue, Roulette Red, or Coastal Blue)(International)
• Custom 8lb Anchor
• Fish hook graphic
• Dual Battery System with Crossover Switch
• Full Welded Bow Rail
• Ski Tow Frame - Powder Coated
• Wide Band Gel (Deep Water Black, Deep Water Blue, Roulette Red, or Coastal Blue)
• 220/50 CE Package Includes: CE Hull Serial Number, European Symbols, CE Capacity Plate, Completed BDRF, and Multi Language Owner’s Manual
• Canadian Conformity Plate
• Duel Battery Charger – 12V12AMP
• Duel Battery System with Crossover Switch
• Garmin 740 GPS/Chartplotter Includes: 7' Colour Display with Touch Screen, Built in US Coastal Charts
• Trim Tabs
• Wiring for 24 Volt Bow Trolling Motor with Triple Bank 12/24v 20AMP Battery Charger
• Trailer Spare Tire Kit
• Trailer- Delete Standard Trailer
• Mercury Four Stroke ELPT EFI 115hp
• Mercury Four Stroke 150XL 150hp
• Yamaha F150AET1X Mechanical 150hp
Price as tested: $69,500
For more information on the Robalo 180 or any other model in the Robalo range, log onto www.robalo.com or contact Chaparral Australia on (03) 9397-6977